Monday, July 31, 2006

Our Last Big Block of the Year

Today we started our final math block of grade 1. We'll have one block after this, a nature-themed adventure block to wind down grade 1, but this is the last block with new academic content. Well, it is somewhat new - we introduced the four processes earlier this year using the Christophers 1st Grade Syllabus, but I want to do it again, using Enki this time. I don't think I was prepared to teach it last time, and we kind of rushed through. It was also before we set up the schoolroom, and J-Baby was't comfortable in the breakfast nook and balked at any writing.

We'll go a full month, 7/31 - 8/30. We have a Friday and Monday we are taking off for a camping trip, so the block will go 4.5 weeks. We're doing 4 days of focused work a week, because we don't do anything academic on Thursdays other than read a nature story. Really, I don't see how this block could be finished in 4 weeks following a 3 day week.

Our practice work will consist of handwriting practice, sight words, word families, and reading (BOB books and Hop on Pop). New this month we will start tidying the schoolroom together each afternoon before moving to our projects.

I moved our projects around to see if I can find a better fit for our days. I had originally planned watercolor painting for Thursdays since it is a light day academically, but we were always so wiped out from park day that we didn't do it. So I moved that to Tuesdays, and decided on modeling for Thursdays, as for now we use plastalina and beeswax, which don't require much preparation. I switched handwork to Fridays; right now it is rather intense, but eventually I see handwork as a relaxing activity that will be a nice way to wind down the school week.

One thing I did differently this week was to plan the painting and crafts, instead of just thinking I'd do it the weekend before (which I wouldn't do, and then I'd scramble to come up with something that was fun but not nourishing). So we'll read a painting story on Monday afternoon during our "settling-in" time, and we'll paint Tuesday afternoon. Each story has been chosen and put into the active binder. I chose 5 crafts from the kindy craft book, mostly working with tying knots and braiding. I think this will be good work for us, as finger knitting has been difficult and the boys need more work with their hands. For modeling we will do some of the beginning exercises from Learning About the World Through Modeling by Arther Auer.

I thought about movement, music, and sensory integration. We're going to resume our morning walk, but make it shorter. I like the walk because it gets us into the fresh air and it seems to be the best way to incorporate rhythmic counting. Today it was nice and cool and so refreshing to get outside and walk. I personally enjoyed the yoga DVD we bought earlier this month, but it didn't seem to be a good format for the boys. I will learn some of the movements myself and then lead them without the DVD. That will be a nice alternative to the walk when it is either too hot or too rainy to go outside.

We definitely need to work on sensory integration, so I chose one new SI activity to learn each week. That's a bit ambitious, but we can always back off if it doesn't work. Today we did Cobra (from the kindy base sense activities) 3 times. What child can resist pretending to be a snake? I just modeled it 3 times and they caught on to what I was doing. I much prefer not stopping and explaining what I am doing, although T will ask. I just whisper "watch me" or even just point to his eyes and he quiets down.

I also planned a circle. I have gone around and around thinking about this. In some ways the essential energy of circle is being met organically throughout our day, but I do want to spend some time with academic verses/games and foreign language. Also, T and I really enjoy circle, and I don't see that we should deny ourselves that just because J-Baby doesn't always participate. Anyway, here is our circle, although I'm not going to type out all of the songs and verses. The starred (*) items are new material; they are familiar with the rest.

Opening verse
Opening stretch and verse
Ring Around the Rosy (1st stanza - this usually bring J-Baby into what we are doing if he balks at the beginning)
Lirum, Larum (finger exercises from a Kindermusik CD, done lying on our bellies)
Ring Around the Rosy (stanza that ends in "we all stand up")
*Number Qualities verses
*(Even and Odd dance to be added week 3)
Pito, Pito Colorito (from Cante Cante Elefante!)
*Buenos Dias (from Cante Cante Elefante!)
Closing verse

Being the dreamer that I am, I also planned a weekly recorder lesson, and daily recorder practice as part of our "settling-in" time. Of course, "settling-in" is something we haven't successfully worked into the rhythm before, so we will see how it goes. My plan is to use the recorder to gather them in, do a short (5 minute) practice, and then read to them. At that point dinner should be nearly ready, so they will wash their hands and set the table while I finish any last minute preparation.

I did leave form drawing until January, as I really think J-Baby is too young. We aren't gardening yet, because of time and weather. I have to accept that there are are many things that I would like us to do, but to do them all wouldn't be nourishing to us as a family.

I spent all day Sunday doing the planning, although I had been thinking about it for some time. Papa kept the boys busy and also took them on an 8-mile nature hike. They came across a rattlesnake with a mouse in its mouth on a narrow portion of the trail, and after waiting quite a while for it to leave Papa finally had to get a long stick, hold it between the path and the snake, and tell the boys to run (for those unaccustomed to rattlers, it would be highly unlikely for the snake to drop its kill and attack the boys). It was a big adventure! Papa says he's never seen a rattler in that area, and he rides there almost weekly. Now for Papa, seeing rattlesnakes is pretty common, as 2 of his weekly rides go through rattler habitat. But the boys were thrilled with their first rattlesnake "in the wild".

Anyway, my Enki day was exhausting! I participated in both conference calls and did all that planning. By last night I was thinking that I had overdone it and that there would be no way to accomplish everything we want to do each day, but this morning I felt better and I reminded myself that my plans and schedules (based on our natural rhythm) are maps and not prisons.

My time is up. Quiet time is over, and it is time for a snack and our Monday project, which is actually running errands.

Rain!

Rain, on the last day of July, in Southern California. Of course, it will warm up and then it will just be hot and muggy, but this morning it is 69 degrees, which feels pretty cool.

Sorry about the lack of posting last week. I went instrospective on you and then I stopped writing. I think of things I want to write about all of the time, and turn the words and phrases around in my brain, but I was too busy this past weekend to have any blog time.

I'll catch up this week, to the best of my ability. We have an ambitious block planned and there just won't be as much time for the computer.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Changes

Did you notice the template change? My old blog was green and blue and I really loved it, but when I started the second blog I wanted it to be different. I must have been very tired when I chose that pink scheme. Funny thing is, I didn't pay much attention to it, but tonight I logged in and it was staring at me with its glaring Pepto Bismalness.

Speaking of the old blog, I've noticed that more and more lately I write about life, and not just homeschooling. The old blog was titled "Simplicity in the Suburbs", and my self-criticism at the time was that I wrote too often about veganism, food, and cooking. So perhaps I don't really know what to call my blog. I'll stick with the current title, and hopefully the rest of you won't mind that many of the posts aren't about homeschooling per se, but about life, learning, laughter, and love.

Another change was our transition away from veganism. We all eat small amounts of organic pastured eggs and wild salmon, as well as other fish occasionally. No beef, pork, goat, chicken, turkey, lamb, or any other flesh except fish, and no dairy. We wouldn't eat the eggs if we couldn't find them locally and humanely raised.

We have done this for our health. Now, please spare me the lecture on how everyone can be perfectly healthy following a vegan diet, because I spouted it for years. But right now we can't. Food allergies have taken their toll and we need lean, concentrated protein to aid in our healing. A vegan diet is fantastially healthy, but not optimal for healing a leaky gut and putting some weight on a skinny 6 year old. Nothing is the way it used to be, and we can't get the same nutrition from our factory-farmed grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits as we did 100 years ago before the advent of fossil-fuel based pesticides and the depletion of our nation's topsoil.

You know, I used to worry what people would think, me going from vegan to vegetarian, back and forth, then adding in fish (after 12 years of no flesh at all), then taking it out, and so on. Now I don't care. I remember meeting a woman 14 years ago who said in a very knowing way, "I was vegetarian for 10 years". At the time I couldn't fathom how a person could make an ethical decision like that and change their mind. Now I see that there are so many shades of grey, and that even a vegan diet and lifestyle do not exist without harm to some creatures. The fields are pretty bloody after the harvester goes through, littered with the carcasses of the small animals that make each field their home. The earth is polluted with the exhaust of trucks and ships bringing us produce from around the world. To exist as a human being, as least as a human being in North America, means that others will be harmed by my existence. There is no perfection, and you can drive yourself insane trying to be "good" in every area of your life. Ask me, I know...I've been to the edge and back. I struggle with it still.

There may very well come a time when we are back to living in local communities with local economies and local food sources. While right now I can't imagine eating my friend the cow, I do know that in the end I will do what I have to do to survive, and if I have to humanely raise and slaughter an animal to keep my children and grandchildren alive I suppose I will. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Anyway, I'm not going to change the part in my profile that says I enjoy coming up with plant-based meals for my family, because I do. Most of our meals are completely free of animal products. I understand that my position isn't good enough for staunch vegans, because I've been in their (leather-free) shoes.

Other changes: I've slowly backed away from 99% of my message board and email list participation. My computer time is now focused on writing in my blog and moderating a homeschooling Yahoo! group for Enki users. I haven't time for much else. The writing feeds my soul; I have always loved writing and I have finally found that blogging allows me to share my words with the world. It is enough for me: I need to write - I don't need to be published or paid.

So the blog may take a different direction. I'll still write about holistic homeschooling, because it is a huge part of my life. But I'm also going to write about all of the other things that I think about, things that catch my fancy, things that bother me, things that bring me great joy. And maybe, just maybe, I'll figure out how to post pictures without it being a huge time consuming task.

Discipline

Did I get your attention with that title? Well, this isn't about parents and children.

I've been thinking about discipline in regards to myself. Why do things work sometimes and not others? What is it in my attitude that helps determine accomplishment or failure? Why is it that one day I can give the kitchen a good cleaning, do the laundry, make the beds, homeschool the children, and cook the meals, while the next day I don't "feel" like doing anything?

I need rhythm and routine. Without I fall into laziness. There, I said it. I can be lazy. Oh, I make up for it by being incredibly productive for a few hours or days at a time, or during a week here and there where I go through the house top to bottom and declutter and organize everything in sight. However, there is no balance in working like this. I feel fantastic on days when I have worked like mad, but tired too. On days I don't think I have done enough I have a nagging sense of guilt.

Rhythm and routine help me find balance, as long as I stick more to rhythm and less to a schedule. When we stop following the rhythm the bathrooms don't get wiped down. If I try to do them everyday I just don't have time for other chores, and I get stressed. I think if I wiped down the bathrooms 2-3 times during the week, the rhythm would work.

Bathrooms are just one example. If I know that every day after quiet time we are going to have a snack, then practice time, and then do a craft/project, then my afternoon is well planned. But this is where discipline comes in. If the boys don't want to practice, do I let them off easy or just sing and get it going? Because I know if they skip it the rhythm will fall apart and I'll spend all afternoon on the computer, and maybe dinner will get my full attention, but maybe I'll just throw something together. How does dinner figure in? When we are doing projects in the afternoon some of them are self-guided, so I stand and chop vegetables and do early dinner prep while the boys do whatever project they are doing.

After that I should have free time for the computer. After practice, and projects, and dinner prep. Discipline. The computer itself isn't an addiction; I thought at some point maybe that word could be used, but I can go away for weeks on vacation and not miss the computer at all. I can just as easily lose myself to reading a book or crocheting, or any number of alternate activities. It is discipline. It is teaching myself that there are things I need to do before I can take that break - after all, my home and my children are supposed to be my vocation, and the other things my leisure. How easy it is to let my leisure fill up my work time, and to do homekeeping during my breaks!

There are things we know we should do. Discipline determines whether or not we do them. Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep...they aren't hard things to do. I would wager that most of the time, if we have determined the heart of the matter in our lives there is plenty of time to do what needs to be done. When I say I didn't have time to mop the floor, I'm really saying that I chose to read my new magazine. Some days discipline requires that I set down the magazine and mop the floor. And isn't the magazine that much more satisfying to read if my work is accomplished and I am taking a well-earned break? I can give it my full attention, without the underlying knowledge that I "should" be doing something else.

Discipline. It's been sorely lacking in my life.

When a Block Falters

We are in the last week of a 3 week language arts/humanities block. Our main focus is to summarize our weekly story and to write the summary.

It isn't going well; none of us is inspired. I think my choice to read kindergarten fairy/folk tales may have backfired, as they don't have a lot of depth to carry us through the week. Don't get me wrong - the boys have enjoyed hearing the stories. It might not even be the stories; it might be that the summarization block is so similar to the fairy tale verses block that it is a bit of a rehash.

I'd like to think that other factors are affecting us, such as not having the school room in tip-top shape, or being off rhythm because of my illness, but it feels like something deeper than that. This morning T-Guy couldn't even remember which story we read Monday (Little Red Cap). It didn't speak to him.

Beth writes that to really be growing we should miss the mark about 20% of the time. Obviously, I missed the mark. The question today, Wednesday, is where do I go with this information? Do we finish out the week as planned? Do we let it go and prepare for the next block?

The block hasn't been a total flop. We've been working with word families and sight words and T-Guy is really starting to get it. With just a little prompting he can make it halfway through Hop on Pop (he becomes too fatigued at that point, so I have him stop). J-Baby has far fewer sight words memorized, but right now he is still enjoying the process. Word Families haven't clicked for him yet. He does like to read the Fairy Tale Verses book we made in the last LA block, and can get through the first two BOB books (Mat and Sam). Even if these are recited from memory or cued by pictures, they are still an important step on the road to reading.

I think the best thing to do is to keep working with sight words and word families, and let the summarization drop. We can spend some time decluttering and organizing the school room, add "putting the school room to bed" to our routine, and maybe do a couple of fun projects.

Looking at essential energy and where things happen organically, the boys are getting a lot of informal recall/summarization work with the stories Papa reads them at night. That doesn't address the writing portion of the work, but we still need to remediate in the area of handwriting.

This weekend I am planning our next math block, the four processes. We did this with the Christopherus 1st grade materials, but I want to do it again. We enjoyed the last math block, and I expect that this math block will go well.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Homekeeping

It is so easy to let the clutter take over - thank you Kari for pointing out the essential energy of homekeeping (see her post on "The Heart of the Matter" here). I started making a comment on Kari's blog, but it got long so I decided it belongs over here.

I got overwhelmed with homekeeping when I wasn't feeling well (and as usual, things slipped the week before because I wasn't feeling right but wasn't exactly ill). For me there comes a point where I know that the mess and clutter are affecting me emotionally, but when I still can't seem to do much about it.

Then, often when I am overwhelmed I tackle exactly the wrong thing. The living spaces were a mess last week, and I spent my time cleaning out and decluttering the art/crafts closet (truth be told I should have spent my time in bed resting!). Not that it didn't need to be done, but it is funny how all of of sudden that project, which I had put off for months, seemed most important. (Of course, I found that leak, so it was fortunate that I got in there when I did.)

Luckily, Papa made the effort this past weekend to tidy and clean the dining room, living room, and bathrooms. This greatly alleviated my overwhelm, providing a very nice space to relax Saturday and Sunday evening. By the time I was feeling better yesterday I could see several areas I could tackle. I mostly worked on cleaning and organizing the pantry, which meant I could get several things off the kitchen floor and in the pantry where they belonged. This morning I wiped the stove (Papa and I have different levels of wiping it after meals), wiped the counters, scrubbed the sink, and mopped the floors in the kitchen and breakfast nook. Now the kitchen is a welcoming place to make meals, without searching through the pantry for ingredients or tripping over the appliances on the floor. The nook is clean and invites us in to sit and enjoy our meals together. It is pretty frustrating to me when the nook doesn't get restored to order and cleanliness after meals, because then I am scrambling to wipe the table just as I am ready to put dinner on the table.

Three weekends ago Papa did a major Lego clean up and sort in the boys' room, and we changed the way we handle Legos. Now there are many bins that the boys can "check out" one at a time (stored in my room for now), which limits the amount of mess the boys can make with the Legos (have you ever cleaned up over 10,000 Legos off the floor? I have.). The weekend after that I took the room to the next level of clean, decluttered, and organized, and since then we have made an effort every single night to put the room back to perfection.

Other than pockets of clutter here and there in various corners (our camping stuff always ends up in the dining room, and with an old bungalow we have no entry area so Goodwill items also stack up in the dining room) all we have left is our bedroom and the school room. The school room is pretty good, but it falls apart regularly which tells me we could use more decluttering and organization (or perhaps we just need to make the daily effort to return it to order). Our room ends up being the catch-all when we declutter all of the other rooms, as it is the way-station for items that need to be taken to the bonus room (off the garage).

I feel pulled in so many directions, and I know that I can't do it all without experiencing teacher/parent/human burnout. So my goal is to get homekeeping to a place where it is easy to do (but not necessarily mindless). I think that means we still need to get rid of about half of our stuff!

Behind on my Reading...

I didn't finish last week's Enki reading, which means I am behind for this week too. You ask why? I have spent the weekend with Laura Ingalls Wilder.

15 years ago Little House in Ozarks was published. It is a collection of articles Laura wrote, on topics ranging from being a farm wife, to feminism (I don't think the word sat well with her, but she was very strong on her belief that a farm wife should be her husband's partner, each contributing equally and the woman knowing every aspect of the farm's business), to politics, simplicity, friendship, and more.

I know I devoured the book when I received it, but 15 years have passed and my life is far different that it was when I was 22. Saturday I thought of the book, went and found it, and started reading a little more slowly. Sometimes her ideas are dated, but there are many gems in this book; I feel as though I am receiving good counsel from a trusted friend.

I suppose if someone went through and edited Laura's writings, and just included certain articles, then she could have a bestseller on simple living, here nearly 50 years after she passed away.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Thinking Ahead

Okay, I couldn't help myself. I couldn't read my book or use the computer comfortably with my pupils dilated, and well, I wasn't going to spend 4 hours organizing and cleaning the pantry (although it is organized and clean now). I found that I could write, so I did a little planning for Enki 2nd grade.

I got my basic block outline from the old Enki teaching guide. I realize that not everyone has this, and I apologize in advance. It may even be that the blocks will be tweaked a bit for the new grade 2 guide, so this is very preliminary planning.

I hate cross-outs. So I photocopied the Monthly/Yearly Rhythm page, then made labels with my P-Touch Home and Hobby III (no longer made, but the Brother PT 1000 isn't that different) so I could change the months to fit our "school" year. Then I photcopied the whole thing again so I could have a master.

I looked at the calendar and figured out the dates for the blocks. Right now it is very rough, and there are no vacations scheduled in, other than a week off for 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Each block except for the first and last has 4 weeks planned; we may not need 4 weeks for each block, but it will give us flexibility for illness or travel. We haven't planned any long vacations in the first half of the year, but may go for a week or more in the summer.

The Enki guides mention a 3 month break (12 weeks), but the sample schedules all have 10 months/10 blocks. I suppose it is because traditionally schools start somewhere in September and end somewhere in June (or August to May). Our plan is to take off 9/22/06-1/7/07, which is 15 weeks. We are technically on break during December, but I was planning to start easing into our more academic rhythm by adding seasonal stories, so we'll read Israeli Trickster Tales and Hebrew Sages in the weeks leading up to Hanukkah, Solstice, and Christmas. That will leave us with 9 academic blocks to complete, so we can start in January and finish at the autumnal equinox.

Every family will plan differently. For us, summer can be unbearably hot (in July we have had temperatures at or over 100 degrees for 21 out of 24 days), whereas fall is usually very pleasant. This year we decided to extend grade 1 through the summer and not start grade 2 until January, when J-Baby will be much closer to 7 (and T-Guy will be turning 8). It doesn't make much sense to start an academic year during the winter holidays, and we often travel around the New Year, hence putting off our start until January 8th. As for ending at the autumnal equinox (this year and next)? Well, this year we leave for a week at the beach on 9/23, so it just made sense to wrap up before that. It is such a celebratory time of year that it just feels like a great time to end.

I also listed all of the "festivals" of our year, major and minor. Altogether we have 21 over the course of 12 months. Wow, that's a lot! Of course, I am including our birthdays, anniversary, and days like Mother's Day and Father's Day. Most are rather low-key, such as Valentine's Day, but we do have big family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm not doing much with this information yet, but I will need it when I plan crafts for the year.

Then I stopped. It's nice to have just the bare bones calendar ready to go, so I can fill things in when I plan in October.

Daily Plan 7/24/06

Homeschooling: Read new story (thankfully I did this before my optometrist appointment), practice sight words, handwriting practice, pattern blocks. They weren't interested in pattern blocks today. So much of their building play involves mathematics that I just don't sweat it.

Household: Wash, hang, and put away darks. Tidy kitchen and front rooms (Papa did the front rooms over the weekend so I am just keeping them up). Organize pantry. Update #1: So far, so good. I've been waiting for the shadows to cover the side yard before I bring in the laundry. Update #2: All tasks completed, and I washed and hung some small towels and a blanket. I also spent 20 minutes helping the boys get their room "ship-shape".

Health: Optometrist, continue medication. Done.

Financial: Update Quicken, sort through paperwork, pay non-automated bills (annual insurance, etc.), file papers, revise budget. None of this is going to happen until tomorrow.

Dinner: pinto beans, corn tortillas, cabbage salad (Native Chi's Sauce, salsa, and olives as condiments). Done, and delicious. We eat this twice a week and the boys and Papa never complain.

Miscellaneous: schedule vet appointmenet for Missy. Darn, I forgot and then missed them by 5 minutes. Tomorrow...

Self: read, read, read. Can't do this today, maybe tonight.

Revised due to dilated pupils.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where is the "Pause" Button?

Because really, I need to freeze time for about a week while I get better (I hope). No laundry, no cooking, no cleaning, no homeschooling, no trips to the grocery store.

Today my UTI turned into the bladder infection from hell. Even my trusty companion for the last few days, Pyridium, failed me. We couldn't make it to our park day celebration, and instead went back to the doctor's office. She prescribed Macrobid, despite a negative urine culture. I was annoyed, but have since read that it is possible that I went in too early, thus having my urine cultured before the bacteria had sufficiently colonized. We'll see.

In the meantime, I have to do my part. I have eaten far too many simple carbohydates lately, and not enough leafy greens. My protein intake is abysmal, which wouldn't be much of an issue if I was healthy. My hemoglobin is probably low. In addition to backing off on the leafy greens I haven't taken a multi-vitamin consistently for months. I haven't been supplementing calcium or magnesium.

To be fair, I do start most of my days with a fruit smoothie (O.J., mango chunks, banana, and flaxseed meal). We have some sort of raw vegetable or salad with most dinners. I drink water as my beverage 95% of the time. I eat avocados and raw nuts for the healthy fat they provide. I still cook whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa, at home. I make pinto beans at least twice a week.

There are so many reasons why I'm not taking good care of myself. It's been hot, so we don't walk as often or as far. We cut the grocery budget, so I stopped ordering those lovely boxes of produce from Diamond Organics. The boxes "forced" me to cook meals based around vegetables so I wouldn't waste anything. However, it was also a lot of work and really expensive! I started baking gluten-free snacks for the boys, and well, I have to try them too (and they are good, so I keep eating them!). Not supplementing? No good reason, except that when we were following the Eat to Live program I didn't feel like I needed to supplement. Looking back, I was probably using up my reserves of stored iron and my hemoglobin probably kept dropping until I started feeling the fatigue.

I have this problem where I seem to be able to keep some things humming, like homeschooling and laundry, or housekeeping and food preparation, but I haven't managed to keep all four balls in the air at once (how that for a mixed metaphor?). And then there is stress. I shouldn't be experiencing a lot of stress, but when I can't keep up with the house, even if it is because I am ill, I feel guilty and stressed. The disorder and chaos overwhelm me as well, creating physical stress.

I feel so guilty when my health is bad. Not only am I not the mother than I want to be (it is so hard to be patient and creative when you are fatigued and feel like you have to pee every 5 minutes), but I feel so bad that Papa has to pick up the slack. Of course, he is a human being with only 24 hours in the day, so he can't keep up with everything and that overwhelms me because I am that much farther behind.

At least today was a non-homeschooling today, and tomorrow we just have review our summary and write it down. Then I have Saturday and Sunday to either recuperate, or to start getting things back in order if I am feeling better. Next week is already planned, and it can be a light week if it needs to be.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Too Much!

I had pulled about two-thirds of the materials out of the craft closet when I discovered water. Water? Yes, water. You see, my "craft closet" is a bathroom. In a prior life it was the closet for the bedroom (and we think it may have been the master bedroom, but all the bedrooms are basically the same size, so we are going off the fact that this "closet" is a little bigger than the other closets). At some point someone converted the closet into a half bath, with a toilet and sink. It isn't tiny, either; I think our half bath in the condo was smaller. This was done before the current master bedroom was enlarged and a master bathroom was added.

Luckily, not much was wet. Either it is a very small, slow leak, or it started recently. It's hard to know. I didn't touch the valves, because they are old and we've learned from experience that once disturbed they will not work again. Papa is going to have to replace the old valves with quarter-turn valves, or else we'll have to hire a plumber. A year or so ago the toilet wouldn't stop running so I turned off its valve, and well, that's when I really started piling in the craft supplies. It's hard to imagine that a little over a year ago my parents stayed with us and slept in the school room (then an office/guest room) and used that bathroom. That was before I claimed the space for the boys and I; after all, why keep an entire bedroom in your house set aside for guests (and the occasional desk job) and keep complaining that the breakfast nook isn't working for homeschooling (that was after we graduated from the coffee table, which worked well until the boys started writing).

I'd really love to just rip the fixtures out, redo the walls and floors, and put in shelving to maximize the closet space. But really, who rips out a bathroom? We probably won't be here forever, and the bathroom adds value to the house. But me, I don't want another bathroom to clean, so they aren't using it even if we get it functional. Besides, I need it to be a closet!

Anyway, I actually turned on the computer to write about craft supplies. We have too many. I won't even get into the shelves and boxes of stamping and scrapbooking supplies that I have, because, well, I can't go there. I'm just talking about the craft and art materials that I have either passed down or purchased for the boys.

I'll admit it - they have a lot of cast-offs from my childless days. I experimented, a lot (I guess it is good to be able to say that what I experimented with was arts and crafts, and not say, alcohol and illegal substances). I had so much watercolor paper that I didn't need to buy any for the whole first year we painted with watercolors on weekly basis, and even this evening I found a pad of 12 sheets of 400 lb. watercolor paper, never used ($8.75, 15 years ago). There are paintbrushes, and palettes, and old paints. There are fabric crayons and fabric paints. There are small silk flowers, chalk pastels, glitter, buttons, oil pastels, confetti, watercolor pencils, cardstock, decorative scissors, punches, stickers, soapmaking supplies, yarn, and all of the rubber stamps I donated to their artistic pursuits.

There are basic preschooler supplies, like Do-a-Dot markers, poster painters, colored modeling "clay", scissors (like 12 pair, in case they have friends over), glue, tempera paints, big chunky paintbrushes, an old tabletop easel, Stockmar watercolor paints, their old Stockmar crayons, glitter paints, Prismacolor pencils, craft sticks, colored masking tape, etc.

Then, we have everything that I have purchased in the pursuit of homeschooling. Modeling beeswax, plastalina, Fimo, more Stockmar crayons (the toddler crayons had all been tossed around together and were more like confetti crayons than true art supplies), more wool, knitting spools, wool felt, wool stuffing, colored wool roving, doll bodies, cotton pipe cleaners, embroidery floss, small pieces of silk, paint brushes for wet-on-wet painting, painting boards, Arches watercolor paper, Da Vinci watercolor paints...

I seem to have taken hold of every idea I ever read in various "Waldorfy" publications over the course of 5 years about things you could do with your children. We have blackboards and erasers, everything for modeling, boards and felt for wool story boards (which we haven't even made yet!), everything for painting, everything for making bendies, simple dolls, and puppets (I failed at bendy making and we've made one felt puppet). We have wool roving and felting needles for dry felting, and a washboard for wet felting, neither of which we have done yet! We've collected bark, stones, shells, sticks, acorns, and lovely acorn caps.

The whole point is, we have too much! Too many choices means we don't choose much at all. I either have to weed through and get rid of a lot (the simplifying route), or find a way to organize and store it all in a way that allows us to get to what we need (the frugal, creative route).

Hanging on by the skin of my teeth....

I'd like to say that this week is going as smoothly as last week, but I'd be lying. I'm sick again, with tooth socket pain, a bladder infection, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, and headaches. It really had me down Monday and Tuesday, fearing that I am once again fighting something systemic and worried that I will lose weeks and months like last time I was in a health crisis.

Today I am bettter mentally. I don't have a lot of energy, but my mind is whirring and I am upbeat. I keep working in 15 minutes bursts, trying to catch up on everything that I have fallen behind on in the last several days.

I will have approximately 6 hours to myself this afternoon/evening. The guys are heading Raging Waters with their cousins to spend 4 hours frolicking in the water and braving scary water slides; it is an annual event.

What to do with such a large block of time? Last year I went to the mall and got my hair trimmed and my eyebrows waxed (we were going to an out-of-town, upscale wedding that weekend), and I went clothes shopping and got a pedicure. This year, however, we are back to only having one vehicle and I will be limited by how far I can travel by my own power, and by the heat!

So, as crazy as it sounds, I am going to clean out the craft supply closet, and tidy up around the house. I also need to think about what to take to tomorrow's homeschooling potluck, and come up with some sort of gluten-free, chocolate-free sweet. I'll admit that I am considering just heading to Trader Joe's in the morning for some meringue cookies instead of firing up the oven to bake. I am also going to listen to Enki music, and maybe watch the DVD.

As for Enki, we did a morning lesson Monday and Tuesday, but our afternoon practice time has been rather freeform. I suppose that is because we haven't made it a firm part of our rhythm, and by afternoon I feel pretty yucky. We've been reading a lot and playing a lot of games. We'll finish the 3-day cycle Friday with copying our summary and playing with math manipulatives. We don't practice handwriting on a day we write a lot in our MLBs, because it is just too much for the boys.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Daily Flow 7/17

Yesterday we decided to beat the heat by driving to the coast. Our original plan had been to spend the weekend in Big Bear, but even if Big Bear wasn't as risk from the Sawtooth Complex/Millard fire, we figured the air quality had to be pretty poor.

The morning was complicated by the sudden onslaught of a bladder infection - by me. We had to stop at least 4 times on the way to Doheny, including once at a drug store so I could buy some over the counter medication. I don't actually know if it is a bacterial infection or something else (like gluten overload), but this is the 4th time in 10 months after going 7 years without an infection. I frequently have bladder spasms, but this is worse, and the most likely explanation is infection. Right now I am taking a probiotic, grape seed extract, cranberry, and a kidney specific herbal formula, plus that awful med that makes you pee orange (but helped me make it through the day yesterday). Oh yeah, I'm taking cantharis as well. Depending how this morning goes I'll have my OB order a culture, or I'll just go to urgent care after Papa gets off work. One problem I have is that I rarely register an infection on a strip test, but will at the lab.

Still, we managed to spend some time on the sand, to eat a picnic lunch on the grass, to ride our bikes, and to poke around the used bookstore in San Clemente. It was nice to be at the beach, and even if it was a very hot day for the beach it was still 20 degrees cooler than it was at home. I'm a bit of a homebody and would have been content to stayed hole up in the house (with the thermostat set to 80 degrees), reading, playing boards games, listening to music, etc. But Papa and the boys had a real need to get out (especially Papa!) and I always enjoy being in nature.

Today my goals are very clear:

Rest! Drink lots of water. Eat whole foods only with no added sugar, no soy, no casein, no gluten, no chocolate, and nothing I am allergic too. Take a bath with essential oils of hyssop, rosemary, and thyme. Make a massage oil for over the bladder with essential oils of basil, lavender, and pine. Continue to take alternative meds. Monitor situation closely to determine if allopathic intervention will be required in order to sleep tonight.

Homeschool! Mondays are a light day, and today will be even lighter. Do about 10 minutes stretching/yoga together (If I can do that without needing a bathroom break). Practice word families and sight words. Read Stone Soup. After quiet time we'll do handwriting practice and pattern block work. Finally, we'll listen to the This is the Way We Wash-a-Day CD.

Anything else that gets done is extra, but will be good. The house is out of order after the weekend, especially since we spent most of yesterday gone. I'll do what I can, but my homekeeping priorities have to be laundry and making meals.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Weekly Flow 7/10 to 7/14

I thought it would be best to write about our lessons this week in terms of what we did over the course of the week. This is just the academic/focused portion of the week and doesn't include baking, singing, reading, etc.

Monday morning: We reawakened word families by reading some of the poems and working with the town board manipulative. We also got out our sight word rings and figured out which words the boys already knew. Finally, we read Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Monday afternoon: We did handwriting practice and worked with pattern blocks.

Tuesday morning: We worked with word families again, using the board and the Word Family Flip Books we bought at Lakeshore Learning. We practiced sight words and each boy added a few new words. Usually we would add only one word per day, but these are those really easy words like "on" and "at" that most children are beginning to recognize fairly easily.

Then we moved on to recalling and summarizing Three Billy Goats Gruff. Summarizing in a formal manner is a new skill for the boys, and I did most of it. Next, we drew pictures in our main lesson books. We use big 14" X 17" drawing pads (70 lb.) from Strathmore, available from Dick Blick. At this point I still lead the drawings for the most part, but each boy will choose to make his river, bridge, goat, etc. different. We finished up by reading The Three Bills Goats Gruff (an out-of-print edition illustrated by Tim Arnold) which J-Baby had checked out from the library. I prefer that a story be heard for a period of time before being presented in picture book form, but the boys have this story on the Jim Weiss Animal Tales CD, so they were quite familiar with it already.

Tuesday afternoon: Handwriting practice and work with Cuisenaire rods. The boys did the first couple of Cuisenaire worksheets from the Enki Grade One Math blackline masters, then played with them freeform.

Wednesday morning: More word family and sight word practice. Then we went over the summary again and each boy wrote two sentences in his MLB. Don't be fooled; this is a lot of work, especially for J-Baby, who is only 6!

Wednesday afternoon: Handwriting practice and tangrams.

Thursday: This is our non-academic day. In the aftenoon I read a nature story to the boys from Enki Nature Stories: Kindergarten, and we went on a short walk in 103 degree heat to look for "golden round faces."

Friday morning: Word Family and sight word practice. Recall and draw nature story.

Friday afternoon: (planned) handwriting practice and math games (probably something simple like Hi Ho! Cherry-O or Trouble). Hopefully we'll make it back to Lakeshore soon to buy a math bingo game, as the boys love bingo!

Each evening we practiced sight words and word families with Papa. This is really important to reinforce rote memorization. T-Guy also tackled a few BOB books, and we played Sight Word Bingo.

Dinner Success

Well, three of the four of us liked dinner last night, so I am going to call it a success. It was a bean/grain casserole based on the Adventist loaf. I got the idea from Jennifer's Vegan Lunch Box blog, but I un-veganized it by using an egg as binder, as I have a source of pastured, organic eggs from local happy chickens. If you want to make a loaf I suggest you use her universal loaf recipe maker.

I ground 1/2 cup raw cashews in the little food processor, then put them in a big bowl. After that I used the processor to finely mince 1 carrot and 1 celery rib. You could grate the carrot and leave the celery whole, but my plan was to make the texture of the veggies less of an issue with my boys. I sauted the carrot and celery in 2T. olive oil along with a heaping teaspoon minced garlic, unless the veggies were fragrant and soft.

Into the big bowl I added 1 cup cooked quinoa and 2 cups cooked, drained (but not rinsed, as I had made these from scratch....I would rinse if they were canned) pinto beans (Jennifer doesn't even have pinto beans as an option, so she must not live in the west/southwest), 1 teaspoon salt, and the cooked veggies. I started mixing and mashing that together, and then added 1 beaten egg and mixed some more. I wanted to add minced parsley, but didn't want to turn off the boys. I should be able to do that once they've successfully eaten it a few times. Also, I was out of onion or I would have added half an onion to the minced veggies before I cooked them.

I put the mixture into a glass 8X8 pyrex dish that had been sprayed with oil, and baked it for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. You can use a loaf pan, but this seemed easier.

The recipe suggested a vegetarian gravy, but I had been wanting to try the Native Chi's recipe from The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook. I can't post the recipe because of copyright, but I'll tell you that it is basically a blend of water, cashews, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powders, salt, and tahini, whirled together in a VitaMix. To make a version you can slice for sandwiches you use agar flakes, but I didn't have any. I will tell you that the recipe will thicken upon standing and cooling (the VitaMix will heat it up a bit), so don't go messing with it (like I did) or eventually it may be too thick to pour as a sauce (and now having set in the refrigerator overnight is is of spreading consistency). Anyway, it was absolutely delicious!

T-Guy, Papa, and I all gave the meal the thumbs up! J-Baby rejected it, as he rejects all mixed foods. However, upon being pressed to finish half of what I gave him he did eat it, whereas Tuesday he absolutely refused kale with cashew cream, so he must not of thought it was that bad. It reminded us of a tamale pie recipe I used to make (in fact, Papa topped his with salsa and the Chi's), and if you'd told me there was cornmeal in it I would have believed you.

So there you go - a gluten-free, soy free, casein free loaf/casserole and sauce.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Reinventing Myself

When I read through my blog (and also my previous blog, which is now defunct) I see that I am constantly reinventing myself, trying to improve things, etc. I waver between veganism and vegetarianism, and even that grey area of pesco-vegetarianism, which isn't so grey to most people who consider themselves "real" vegetarians.

One basic rule with allergies is to not change more than one thing at a time. I have been thinking that I should take gluten out of my diet. I've even told myself that I feel worse when I eat gluten. It may be true. However, it occurred to me yesterday that I am perhaps trying to change too many things at once. Yes, I am low energy and my mood has been sort of up and down lately. That could be gluten sensitivity. It could also be low iron, as I always have the same symptoms when I am anemic, I have a long history of anemia, and I have been bruising very easily for a couple of months. I could be deficient in other nutrients, such as vitamins, other minerals, or protein (I've been craving protein foods). It could be that I've had too many simple sugars and carbohydates over the past couple of months.

I have to decide what to work with first. I don't think gluten is the first step, as it is a rather drastic step to take. I also know that starting some basic supplementation would be a good idea for the whole family; we do eat mostly organic foods, but with soil depletion our foods don't deliver the same mineral and vitamin content they did in the past. Tracking my diet I find that most days I consume less than half of the RDA for iron. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that with my history, getting less than the RDA probably isn't a good idea. Even when my hemoglobin is within a normal range my iron stores tend to be low, which is bad or good depending on what book you're reading.

So, I think taking iron and a basic multivitamin would be the first step. I don't want to get on the seesaw of prescription iron, which raises my levels quickly, but then has to be discontinued. I'm going to take Floradix Floravital Iron + Herbs for a few weeks and then have my hemoglobin checked when I go for my annual exam.

After that, I need to look at the protein cravings. I prefer to eat a mostly vegan diet, as it is most in line with my ethical beliefs. However, I have to admit that over the past 6 years my mood has been better during the months I eat fish. I've tried flax seed to boost omega 3 intake, but it doesn't seem to have the same effect. This is a difficult issue for me; I am never entirely comfortable eating fish, and after snorkeling in Maui I am even more conflicted. I also think that fish as a protein source can often be contaminated, either by mercury or environmental toxins.

No matter what I do, cutting refined carbohydrates will add to my health. The funny thing is, we rarely have any refined grain products at home, but lately we've been eating out a lot, which means the rice is white or the bun is made from refined flour. At home I've been baking more, which means more sugar consumption, whether it be organic cane crystals or organic maple syrup. The more sugar I eat, the more I crave it, so we need to cut back.

I probably will tackle gluten, but only once everything else is in place. That way I will know if I have a true sensitivity, and if I do I can manage it with rotation and enzymes rather than complete elimination.

Of course, I'm laughing at myself in a gentle manner. I treat myself as a guinea pig a lot of the time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Few Things...

We have been easing back into our rhythm. It's amazing how much vacation can throw you off, especially two vacations in the same month. Teacher burnout was a factor too; well, more like homemaker burnout than teacher burnout. The lessons I can plan and engage in; it's the homekeeping that can push me over the edge.

So this week we've slowed down and honed in on some basic goals. Flow with the daily and weekly rhythm. Accomplish the morning main lesson and the afternoon practice time. Cook three meals a day. Get groceries. Keep up with laundry. Everything else is gravy, and already we seem to be swimming in quite a bit of it.

On the Enki front, I never know when J-Baby will participate and when he won't. Monday he jumped right in and sang all of our circle songs, yesterday he didn't, today he did. They were the same songs! He enjoys the lighting of the candle, and blows it out of it is his turn, but he rarely participates in the verse (but today he did).

This is the hard part of having two children close in age and trying to teach them together. He's 6 years and 3 months; were he an only child or even the oldest we'd just be starting grade 1. In fact, we'd probably wait until Fall.

What is obvious to us (Papa pointed it out last night), is that while J-Baby is really bright, using complex language and vocabulary, and spending hours analyzing everything, the whole reading thing isn't clicking for him. He can memorize sight words, but the word families have yet to grab him. Not visually, at least. Also, all of a sudden he doesn't remember letter sounds. It's tough...I don't know if he isn't ready or if he is just being obstinate. He is always willing to work with math, so I am leaning toward thinking he isn't quite ready. But he also has a tendency not to want to do anything I want him to do, be it getting dressed, picking up toys, eating dinner, etc. It also seems to me that second children very often try to find ways to differentiate themselves from their older sibling (in my family's case it was my younger sister trying to be very different than I was, even though we are the 3rd and 4th child, respectively).

Still, this is the path we have chosen. In an Enki school there would be children of various ages and abilities in the same classroom. I will continue to expose him to language arts and to work with him, but I won't push. It is hard though! T-Guy wants to practice word families so we do. Then J-Baby will want to practice too, but will stare at the card and me and say "I don't know." I don't understand why he wants to practice when he isn't even trying.

I'm going to continue to note my observations, and then I will probably schedule a consult with Beth before I start planning grade 2.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another Song to Share

Okay, I will admit that I am a big George Harrison fan. Early on I was a Beatles fan, and I had always been fond of George's songs. As a teen my brother gave me a taped copy of The Concert for Bangladesh, but it didn't really grab me at the time. Somewhere along the way Papa bought the All Things Must Pass double CD set, and we realized a depth and musical talent we hadn't heard before.

We also have The Concert for George DVD and CD, which we bought for Papa a couple of years back. While watching it I heard Jeff Lynne sing Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth), and it has stayed with me ever since. Jeff doesn't sing it the way George does, but I still love it, and well, the original by George is even better. By the way, it is an amazing concert, and well worth renting or purchasing. The music is great, and you can see how many lives George touched.

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) by George Harrison
Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul

OM M M M M M M M M M M M M M
M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Won't you please
Oh won't you

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul

OM M M M M M M M M M M M M M
M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

I didn't end up in the same place as George during my spiritual
quest, but I understand the seeking and longing.

Silent Sunlight

Silent Sunlight
Cat Stevens

Silent sunlight, welcome in
There is work I must now begin
All my dreams have blown away
And the children want to play
They'll soon remember things to do
When the heart is young
And the night is done
And the sky is blue

Morning songbird, sing away
Lend a tune to another day
Bring your wings and choose a roof
Sing a song of love and truth
We'll soon remember if you do
When all things were tall
And our friends were small
And the world was new

Sleepy horses, heave away
Put your backs to the golden hay
Don't ever look behind at the work you've done
For your work has just begun
There'll be the evening in the end
but till that time arrives
You can rest your eyes
And begin again

I'm not sure exactly why I am sharing this here, except that I listened to it Friday and it has stayed with me.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Task, or a Privilege?

We had a really lazy morning, sleeping in, getting started late on breakfast, reading the paper. My mom called, and between all of us we were on the phone for over an hour. I didn't get my bath until right before lunch. We didn't really fix lunch: Papa cut into a big watermelon and we feasted on that. That's one of the great things about summer.

I spent the afternoon in the office. It is our school room, but I hate to call it that. I was trying to think of alternative names - "the learning center", "the imagination room", "the growing place" - nothing worked for me. I guess it doesn't really matter what we call, except my boys have the tendency to call any focused time "school", as in "are we doing school today"? I'd like to get away from that.

Anyway, I cleared the big desk (it is set up so I am on one side and the boys are on the other, facing me) and gave it a good scrubbing to remove stray crayon marks (even though we use boards when drawing we still get crayon on the desk). I picked up and put away everything that was on the floor - pattern blocks, puzzles, acorn caps, bendy people, and paper galore (of course). I sorted and filed all my paperwork from the last month. Papa finally took away the computer that has been sitting unused on the boys's table for close to 2 years. I didn't have time to declutter or deep clean, but we are set for the week.

Then I set to planning. I was planning a 3 week language block, focusing on summarization and sight reading. I wrote out a basic plan for each day of the week, going off the rhythm we are already living. I chose one main lesson story for each week. We are going to read classic folk tales from the Enki Kindergarten Folk and Fairy Tales book; I think that J-Baby will be stretched enough with the summarization and lengthier writing, and shouldn't have to stretch developmentally to accommodate the stories.

We're going to revisit word families now that they have had a chance to sleep. We'll use the town board, and also some flip cards, and perhaps a game or two if I have time to make them and/or if we find something appropriate to purchase locally.

One thing we haven't focused on is sight words, other than playing sight word bingo now and then. We're going to step this up, introducing 3-4 new words a week, and leaving Friday mornings to focus on sight word and sight word readers.

I found 3 summer nature stories that will work for us in the Enki Kindergarten Nature Stories book. We'll read those on Thursdays, and work with the content on Fridays. Reading the nature story will be the only "work" we will do on Thursdays, as the day is so full becasue of our park day group.

I gathered the stories I need and put them in a binder. It is so great that Enki offers the resources in 3-ring binders so we can pull out what we need. I haven't done this before because I've been flying by the seat of my pants, but I can see how useful it will be and how much more smoothly the block will go because of it.

After all that, the boys and Papa came to tell me that they were going for a bike ride. Papa had kept the boys out of my hair for nearly 3 hours, and I still pointed out that I would be left to make dinner alone. I couldn't believe the words came out of my mouth! Yes, I was working that whole time on household and educational tasks, but I couldn't have done it without Papa's help. I quickly reversed myself and told him that I would find a way to make it easy on myself, not to worry, and to have a nice bike ride.

I wrapped up what I was doing in the office and made my way to the kitchen to find my apron and start dinner preparation. It hit me - I've begun to think of cooking as a chore instead of as a gift. In general I love to coook, but I have been so busy that cooking has become something I have to do, and often I don't want to. I do it anyway, but with a chip on my shoulder.

The realization brought me back to center; I've been off the horse for awhile in this area. So tonight I am making dinner and I am reminded that it is a gift I give my family. It is a privilege to have them in my life, and to provide meals without worrying about not having enough food, or firewood, or clean water. It's simple - baked potatoes, corn on the cob, grilled portobello mushrooms, and a cabbage salad - but I think it will be the most nourishing meal we've had in a while, if you know what I mean.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Weekend Goals

I don't usually do this on the weekend, but I have to figure it out, so why not type? All the house/laundry/food goals are for Saturday. Late Saturday afternoon we're heading to Palm Springs to swim at MIL's timeshare. Sunday will be for teacher preparation and teacher renewal.

House-related goals:

Tidy, tidy, tidy!
Clean bathrooms
Dust and vacuum
Scrub kitchen sink

Laundry goals:

Wash, hang, and put away light load
Wash and hang BMX clothing

Errands:

Health food store
Target: buy suncreen and epsom salts

Food preparation:

Figure out what food to take to Palm Springs (snacks and dinner) and prepare and pack it in cooler.

********

Sunday my main goals are Enki-related:

Finish weekly Enki reading
Clean and tidy school room (still looking for another name)
Plan next block
Have Papa help me put Enki music on computer/iPod

Time in nature

Friday, July 07, 2006

Musings

Sometimes I look down and I don't have my apron on, and I am surprised.

If I ask J-Baby to bring me some hangers, he will take all of his long-sleeved shirts off their hangers so he can impress me with the number of hangers he found.

I hate cooking on Fridays.

I spend way too much time thinking about Enki. I often wish I had just bought the materials back in 2003/2004 when Lauren recommended it. Then I could have attended the homeschool conferences.

I really don't understand why anyone would want to buy a timeshare week in Palm Springs in July.

Have I mentioned that I can't live without Post-It notes?

I hate ants.

I am either completely motivated and accomplish more than my fair share, or I am completely lazy and do the bare minimum. There is no middle ground with me.

I was a procrastinator in college, and still got As. Maybe if I hadn't I would have learned not to procrastinate.

I hate Southern California, and I love Southern California.

T-Guy won his first race Wednesday, and I wasn't there.

My dog is high needs and expensive to keep, but I'd rather have her than not have a dog at all.

Today I fed my children corn fritters, with maple syrup, for lunch.

I don't have very high self esteem. I always think people don't really like me.

I'm not really a Lakers fan: I just became one through marriage.

However, I have been an Angels fan since I was born, even if I don't bother to follow their season until the playoffs. And in my heart they will never be "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim".

I almost never call my mother. Or my sister. Or my grandparents.

I am vain about my hair. I actually have Papa measure it for me every couple of months. A few days ago it was at 33 inches.

Conversely, I wear my hair in a ponytail or bun 99% of the time.

I am really not that great with computers. Papa showed me how to use iTunes a couple of years ago, I promptly forgot, and I don't know how to put CDs onto the computer or how to transfer them to my iPod.

I never buy new music.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Getting Back to Enki

I apologize to those of you who come to my blog expecting to read about holistic homeschooling and Enki, only to find that I have once again veered off to the topics of simple living, veganism, special diets/allergies, and well just basically chit-chat about our lives. I used to keep a separate blog, but that was just too hard.

Today we resumed our studies after a long weekend. We're finishing up the number qualities block with a 3-day cycle on odd and even. In fact, our story this afternoon was Todd and Evan, taken from the Enki Grade One Math book. I must say, I am very glad to hear that all of the grade one resources are now ready and that the Grade One Instruction Manual will be shipping soon. Luckily I have a CD copy of the old guide, because I wouldn't know how to teach the math without it. Those of you who have been waiting for the Instruction Guide will find that you are finally receiving the missing puzzle piece. I applaud Beth for being able to finish the guide and get it to us. Really, if you look at how much has been finished since March you will be amazed.

We will be slowly rebuilding our homeschooling schedule over the next two months. It seems I've always been able to do some of it, but haven't gotten the hang of putting it all together. For instance, back when we did Oak Meadow kindy we painted each week without fail, and did our morning circle each day. When we started Christopherus we kept up the circle, but switched to other crafts (mostly handwork and nature crafts) and stopped painting regularly. As I transitioned from Christopherus to Enki we got into a good rhythm with our morning walk and we also had the afternoon practice session going regularly, and for a few weeks we managed afternoon crafts and projects. But movement/circle completely fell apart.

Looking at it, I recognize that we have made a lot of changes over the past 18 months, although we've always been arts-based and have used a block cycle. Also, the boys grow and change and suddenly they are less receptive to certain things (like circle), but more receptive to others (writing).

Still, I want to find a way to fit in most things (crafts, music, main lesson, practice time, painting, handwork, foreign language, etc.) most of the time. I know we can't be perfect, but I do think we can try harder. It is easy to wander away from the rhythm and to do our own things instead of coming together to learn and create. It is easy to get into the mindset of doing just enough, without pushing a little and doing more. I need to find the balance between barely squeaking by, and filling the days with so much that we hit burnout and overwhelm.

My plan is to start practice time again next week (maybe even this Friday). We only dropped off right before our last vacation, so it should be easy to pick up again. Also, we'll be moving into language arts for our main lesson, so practice time will be handwriting and math, which the boys love. We have lots of manipulatives such as pattern blocks, tan grams, Cuisenaire rods, rocks, acorns and acorn caps, wooden beads in differing sizes and shapes, a counting frame, and a fun pegboard set.

I'll give that 2 weeks to get set in the rhythm, and then I'll add in wet-on-wet watercolor painting once a week, and at least one other craft/project. Eventually my goal is a nature craft one afternoon, painting one afternoon, handwork one afternoon, and modeling or another project one afternoon, with one afternoon left free for play dates or errands.

After a couple of weeks of that we'll add a nature story and drawing each week. This may be a bit tough, as there are no summer stories in the grade one Enki books, and the pickings look slim in the kindy book. If after I look at the resources I don't find enough we'll just put it off until fall and do nature study instead (a la Charlotte Mason). Even though we'll be on break in the fall I think we'll continue with nature stories, as they aren't hard-core academics and I'd hate to miss out on all of the great fall stories. Really, you can't leave an entire season out of your science for the year.

Doing all that will give me enough time to learn the Enki movement and music, so we'll add that in after the nature stories. That should be mid-August. I'll choose year-round activities and only one or two summer songs, so that we can transition easily to fall. Luckily, we know all of the fall songs from Sing a Song of Seasons, and I know the boys, especially J-Baby, will be happy to revisit those songs and movements.

However, I don't want to wait that long to get moving again, so in the meantime we are going to resume our morning walk, and I intend to weave in Enki games and verses while we walk. Also, taking a cure from Kari (Blissful Bee), I am going to order a yoga DVD and get started with the boys. I am a beginner yoga student myself, and the boys are interested, so it will be beneficial to all of us.

I'd really like to start Spanish, but other than adding a song or two to our movement time (using Cante! Cante! Elefante!) it will have to wait. I'm going to order Sonrisas Spanish School in time to have it when I start planning grade 2 in October.

That leaves music. I think realistically we'll have to keep it organic for now, singing as a family, learning movement songs, and having impromptu ukulele lessons from Papa. That gives me time to get a little better at both ukulele and recorder, and it gives J-Baby some time to mature (he is still really goofy when we try recorder lessons). I'm going to let go of the fear that we aren't doing enough, and just recognize that we are naturally a musical family and that will carry us through to the time we can get more formal about lessons.

Of course, the tricky thing will be to find a way to do all of this and still keep our home, do our laundry, and cook all of our meals. But that is another post!

I'll Update Later...

Well crud! I bumped the computer and lost the whole post I had spent 30 minutes typing. I get so frustrated; this used to happen a lot with my laptop, but now I can bump the desktop tower and crash it too.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Weekend is Winding Down

Today I have made a quinoa salad, hummus, boiled eggs, and gluten-free brownies. Papa was my dishwasher and for that I am very grateful. I mopped the kitchen floor. I have an hour or so of down time while the guys are at the 4th of July carnival. Then it will get crazy for the rest of the evening, but at least now I can see the end of the weekend.

Still to do is packing the cooler, packing the room-temp food and the paper goods, and figuring out what else we need to take with us to the big 4th of July celebration and fireworks at the university stadium. I may or may not make lemonade - it depends on whether or not I go buy sugar.

4th of July has always been a huge holiday for me, since I was a child. Now that I am older it is a more conflicted holiday: I love the freedoms we have in this country, especially the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. At the same time, I am disappointed in our leadership and I hate the blind patriotism that comes with a "love it or leave it" attitude. Since when does having a differing view mean you don't love your country?

I usually put that all aside on the 4th, and revel in the huge gathering of community in celebration of the birth of the United States of America. This year we'll be joined by much of Papa's family. We'll picnic on the stadium field, watch sky divers and plane fly-bys, listen to our great 4th of July band (and to some other mediocre country-rock cover band), and eventually get treated to an amazing fireworks show.

Then we'll come home, put our sleepy boys to bed, and look to tomorrow.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It Tastes So Good...

...and really has absolutely nothing to do with Enki or homeschooling.

This evening I dug into a pint of Purely Decadent soy ice cream in Praline Pecan. Yum! It's vegan, it's organic, it's delicious (and most of the flavors, including this one, are gluten free). I had to stop myself at 1/3 of the container so there would be some for Papa to try (he scoffs at vegan ice cream, so maybe it will end being all mine!). Previously I had tried the Peanut Butter Zig Zag, and that was good, but well, this was even better.

I could actually say that tonight it was helping to promote teacher health, although it would be my emotional health and not my physical health.

The boys? I bought them all natural fruit juice bars, no citrus, no artificial flavors or colors, no corn syrup.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Smoothies For Non-Smoothie Lovers

Okay, I probably have the weirdest kids in America. Never have they been willing to have the traditional fruit smoothies pass their lips. In their early years I'd join friends at the bagel shop, and their toddlers would happily slurp down berry smoothies, mango smoothies, etc., while my child (and later children) absolutely refused.

I'll admit to being slightly smoothie challenged myself. Forget adding that scoop of protein powder - the slight grit will get to me every time. Don't make my smoothies out of yogurt (soy in our case). Never combine bananas and strawberries...you get the idea. These days my basic breakfast smoothie is orange juice, ground flax seed, a banana, and frozen mango chunks, all blended in a VitaMix until smooth. If I am feeling particularly rich I will add frozen organic peaches. I call it my "sunshine" smoothie.

However, from the time I first bought Marilyn Diamond's American Vegetarian Cookbook I have been hooked on banana shakes. At their most basic they are made of frozen bananas, a milk alternative, and a liquid sweetener (organic maple syrup in our case) if needed. Made just like that, and very thick (for a thick shake use a food processor, not the VitaMix) they stand in for soft serve ice cream.

But it is easy to take the banana shakes past that, to a place of divine decadence. Add a couple tablespoons of organic cocoa powder, and you've added flavor and antioxidants. Add peanut butter to that and the shake is superb. And when you break it down - frozen bananas, almond milk (preferably homemade, but we also use Pacific's Low Fat Original Almond Milk), cocoa powder, peanut butter, and a little bit of maple syrup or agave nectar (not me - that's one of my weird allergies) you have a shake (smoothie) that tastes like dessert but is a really decent breakfast. Did I mention that it is also gluten-free? If you aren't a whole foods purist you can even add protein powder (there are a couple of vegan choices out there, based on things like rice protein or hemp seed), which I did when I was pregnant even though I don't particularly like it.

To make these you need to keep frozen bananas in the freezer; they aren't the same made with fresh bananas and ice cubes. I always buy extra bananas, and this time of year instead of making muffins they go into the freezer (peeled and broken in half) when spotted and brown. The sweeter the frozen banana, the smoother the shake, and the less additional sweetener you'll need.

They aren't low calorie once you're adding nut butters, but in my boys' case the extra calories are welcomed.